Gov. Mike Beebe yesterday signed a grocery tax cut and an expansion of health insurance for kids. Earlier, there was a monumental political victory in a sharp increase in the cigarette tax to leverage a big increase in money for a variety of health programs. A lottery is about to be created with unanimous legislative assent. More money will reach college students.
Some particularly bad bills have been defeated or stymied. Some needless bills have been approved, but the damage is primarily in wasted energy, not actual harm.
There's an adult in the governor's office, clearly the best in my time here, maybe ever, for working with the legislature. The leadership of the House and the Senate are able politicians, too, with, like Beebe, a slight tilt toward the cautiously progressive. Robbie Wills' consensus building in the House is particularly noteworthy, given its organically fractious nature. Bob Johnson's checkered resume seems a thing of the past as he leads the Senate.
Back to carping shortly. But for this one moment, a concession that the glass is not only not half-empty, it may be even a bit more than half full.
PS -- Now if all would just line up behind the agenda Bill Kopsky outlines on the jump ...
The Youth Caucus of the Arkansas Citizens First Congress is having a breakfast with state legislators this morning from 7:30 to 9am in the Capitol Hill Apartment building. This is a tremendous group of young leaders from campuses all over Arkansas.
At 10am Senator Joyce Elliott is expected to run her bill to create a Task Force on Reducing Poverty (SB470) in the Senate State Agencies Committee (Old Supreme Court Room -- Second Floor Senate/South side of Capitol). This same committee will hear more details of the lottery proposal and will consider some of the proposed possible constitutional amendments.
At noon a key ethics reform bill will be heard in the House Rules Committee -- to ban members of state regulatory boards and commissions from voting on issues where they (or their family or employer) have a direct financial interest. Room 428 -- Fourth Floor House/North side of Capitol).
Also starting at 11:45 through the lunch hour members of the Youth Caucus will be having lunch and talking about legislation to close the education achievement gap in the auditorium at the Arkansas Education Association.
At 1pm the Youth Caucus will hold a press conference and rally for the Dream Act by Senator Elliott (SB799) that will give every child who graduates from an Arkansas school the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in Arkansas.
A lot going on! Join us if you can!
The Congress is a grassroots coalition of over 40 community groups from across Arkansas that works on progressive reform at the Arkansas Legislature.
Our Ten Priorities for a Better Arkansas for the 2007 Arkansas Legislature are:
Improve our schools and close the education achievement gap.
Create green jobs, build a new energy economy and fight global warming by enacting the recommendations of the Global Warming Commission.
Do more to fight HIV/AIDS in rural and minority communities by enacting the recommendations of the Minority HIV/AIDS Task Force.
Protect our water for drinking, recreation and wildlife by creating a Task Force on Arkansas Water Resources.
Create more rural and small business economic development.
Give working families tax relief while meeting our obligations with fair tax policies.
Make sure everyone in Arkansas is treated fairly by creating an Arkansas Civil Rights Commission to investigate and mediate civil rights abuses.
Give every Arkansas child access to college by making sure every student graduating from an Arkansas school has the opportunity to pay in-state college tuition.
Make sure that workers get paid for their work by improving wage theft laws.
Help farmers and landowners protect their property and heritage by expanding state incentives for land conservation.